January 27, 2006

News Release

U.S. Sentencing Commission
One Columbus Circle NE
Washington, DC 20002-8002

For Immediate Release:
January 27, 2006

Contact: Michael Courlander
Public Affairs Officer
(202) 502-4597

UNITED STATES SENTENCING COMMISSION SEEKS COMMENT ON SENTENCING GUIDELINES FOR TERRORISM, FIREARMS, STEROIDS, AND IMMIGRATION OFFENSES

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 27, 2006) - At its January 11 public meeting, the United States Sentencing Commission voted to publish for public comment proposed guideline amendments on terrorism, firearms, steroids, and immigration offenses. The public comment period runs through March 28, 2006, for all proposed amendments, with the exception of the comment period for the proposed, temporary emergency amendment on guidelines covering steroid offenses that runs through February 27, 2006. A public hearing on the proposed amendments is scheduled for March 15, 2006. The amendments may be found in the January 27, 2006, Federal Register.

The Commission issued for comment a proposed amendment implementing a number of provisions of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The amendment addresses new offenses created by the Act, relating to (1) participation in nuclear, and weapons of mass destruction, threats to the U.S.; (2) the production or transfer of missile systems designed to destroy aircraft; (3) production, transfer, receipt, possession, or threat to use, any radiological dispersal device; and (4) the production, acquisition, transfer, or possession of, or the threat to use the variola virus.

The Commission also issued for comment a proposal to re-promulgate as permanent, an amendment to the sentencing guideline for obstruction of justice. This amendment provides a 12-level increase in the base offense level when the statutory maximum term of imprisonment relating to international or domestic terrorism is applicable. The increase of 12 levels is intended to provide parity with the treatment of federal crimes of terrorism within the limits of the eight-year statutory maximum penalty specified by the Act. It is also provided to ensure a five-year sentence of imprisonment for offenses that involve international or domestic terrorism. The amendment became effective October 24, 2005, on an emergency basis in response to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

The Commission issued for comment a proposed amendment to the firearms guideline (§2K2.1). The proposal provides a sentence enhancement if the offense involved a high-capacity semiautomatic firearm and an enhancement if the offense involved altered or obliterated serial numbers. For firearms trafficking offenses, the proposed amendment also provides a sentence increase based upon the number of firearms trafficked.

Another proposed amendment implements the directive in the United States Parole Commission Extension and Sentencing Commission Authority Act of 2005, under emergency authority, to implement the Anabolic Steroid Act of 2004. This latter act directs the Sentencing Commission to review the sentencing guidelines for steroids; the proposal implements the directive by increasing the penalties for offenses involving anabolic steroids.

The Commission is required to promulgate its anabolic steroid amendment by March 27, 2006, so the comment period for this proposed amendment will close on February 27, 2006.

The Commission also issued for comment a multi-part, proposed amendment addressing immigration offenses, which currently make up 25 percent of all federal cases. One part of the proposed amendment covers offenses sentenced under §2L1.1 (Smuggling, Transporting, or Harboring an Unlawful Alien) and addresses sentence enhancements for such factors as national security, the number of aliens involved in the offense, endangerment of minors, offenses involving death, and the abduction of aliens. Another issue deals with immigration document-related offenses (§§2L2.1 and 2L2.2) and addresses offense characteristics such as the number of documents involved in the offense.

The Commission also issued for comment a proposal to re-promulgate as permanent, an amendment implementing the directive in the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 that required the Commission to review and, if appropriate, amend the sentencing guidelines and policy statements for persons convicted of intellectual property rights crimes. The amendment, which became effective October 24, 2005, as an emergency amendment, provides a two-level enhancement if the offense involved a pre-release work. It also explains that in cases involving pre-release works, the infringement amount should be determined by using the retail value of the infringed item. The amendment provides that, in cases in which the court cannot determine the number of infringing items, the court may make a reasonable estimate of the infringement amount.

To address a circuit conflict, the Commission seeks comment on a proposal as to whether pre-investigative conduct can form the basis of a guideline adjustment under §3C1.1 (Obstructing or Impeding the Administration of Justice). The Commission also proposed for comment an amendment that would implement a statutory directive requiring the Commission to describe what should be considered extraordinary and compelling reasons for a sentence reduction.

In response to the Justice for All Act of 2004, the Commission issued for comment a proposed policy statement restating a crime victim’s “right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.”

The Commission also issued for comment an amendment responding to the Intellectual Property Protection and Courts Administration Act of 2004 (in regard to false registration of a domain name); an amendment implementing a new offense created by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (regarding the transmission of commercial electronic messages that contain “sexually oriented material”); and an amendment incorporating a number of provisions of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act.

The full text of the proposed changes to the sentencing guidelines and issues for comment are available on the Commission’s web site at www.ussc.gov.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, was organized in 1985 to develop a national sentencing policy for the federal courts. The resulting sentencing guidelines structure the courts’ sentencing discretion to help ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences.


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